OPINION | Taxing the unvaxxed? Too many risks for too few benefits

The Legault government wants to "piss off" the unvaccinated, to use Emmanuel Macron's expression. But we should not let anger guide our public policies.

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By Renaud Brossard, Quebec Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation

The Legault government wants to “piss off” the unvaccinated, to use Emmanuel Macron’s expression. But we should not let anger guide our public policies.

The Legault government’s proposed vaccine tax is no exception. While the details are still being worked out, Prime Minister François Legault has suggested that the amount would be “significant,” and that $100 is not a significant amount for him.

Before imposing a new tax, one must ask whether the benefit is worth the cost, and all indications are that this one does not pass the test.

First, one must ask whether the vaccine tax will actually have a significant effect on the scheduling of appointments for the unvaccinated.

Already, the unvaccinated do not have access to restaurants, movie theatres, SAQ, etc.

In the case of health care workers, many of those who were not vaccinated were prepared to lose their jobs rather than be vaccinated last October.

Radio-Canada reported that some were willing to pay up to $3,000 to obtain a fake vaccination passport last December. The existing penalties, both financial and social, are already very high, yet they still resist.

And even if you don’t agree with them, do you think a tax will convince them? If you believe that getting a vaccine will kill you, make you seriously ill, or make you grow green pimples, chances are a tax won’t convince you to do it.

In terms of revenue, it is wrong to believe that it would save our health care system.

Of the 845,000 Quebecers not currently vaccinated, there are about 285,000 minors, who would likely not be affected by the tax.

That leaves about 560,000 Quebecers who would pay the tax.

Even if we were to charge $1,000 per head per year, the money collected would be spent in less than four days by our health care system.

And that’s assuming that none of the 560,000 citizens targeted have a valid medical justification for not being vaccinated. That’s not counting the cost of hiring new public servants to enforce it.

Secondly, the effects of the tax will not only be felt by our unvaccinated fellow citizens.

In order for Revenue Quebec to determine whether or not you should pay it, they would have to give their 12,000 employees access to certain parts of your medical records that are generally only accessible by you and your health care provider.

Revenue Quebec officials are not exempt from the risk of leaks. As recently as 2019, Revenue Quebec fired an employee for breaching the confidentiality of 23,000 employee records.

Regardless of your immunization status, this would be asking for quite a breach of your privacy rights.

It would also set a disturbing precedent, allowing Revenue Quebec to gain access to other personal information that is not related to your income and is not relevant to the mission of this government body.

Ultimately, the vaccine tax will not bring in that much new revenue for the government and its effect on the non-vaccinated is likely to be quite small. The risk associated with giving 12,000 more government employees access to our medical data is real.

The new vaccine tax is not the horse medicine our health care system needs. Legault would do well to back off on its implementation.

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